Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Do children listen to less music? Netmums say yes.

There's a survey been gathered by Netmums, which is a bit like Mumsnet but with its name the other way round; they're attempting to work out when childhood ends by asking parents what they think.

The results don't actually appear to have been published, but the summary has news that might make music industry executives a little queasy:

Only 23% spend time reading compared to 41% of their parents at the same age, while half the number of modern tweens listen to music (17%) compared to their parents (39%).
The musical sky is falling in! The musical sky is falling in!

But hang on a moment. The summary of the findings isn't exactly scientifically worded. Take this bit:
Parents also slammed retailers provision for tween fashion, especially for girls, with over half (54%) angry that stores only provide 'clothes that can be too sexual, such as overtly short skirts or crop tops'.
It's a valid concern, certainly. But did the research actually ask parents if they were "angry"? Or just if they agreed it was happening? And the word "only" in there is suspising. Stores only sell clothes that can be too sexual? The "only" seems quite definitive, but the "can be" seems more vague.

And what does this mean about the other 46%? Are they okay with the idea? Do they not believe the proposition?

Perhaps in the original research this question is a bit clearer, but without access to that data, all we've got is a presentation that has been designed to generate headlines.

So, we should approach this finding with caution. But even if you take it at face value, are less than one-in-five tweens listening to music?

Almost certainly not. It's probably more a generational difference in what constitutes "listening to music". Across the last generation, music has crept more and more inside personal devices, listened to through earbuds, with silent, gestural interfaces; music is purchased remotely and doesn't enter the house in plastic bags, making its arrival harder to spot.

And while a parent can think back and recall that at a social gathering, they listened to music, they're less able to judge if "listening to music" is part of an event that is pitched to them as "having mates over".

And there's probably a smidge of generational snobbery in there too - when I had a young, fresh face, i can recall scraggier, more wrinkly people telling me that my generation didn't really listen to music.

For their cohort, it was communal experience, rolling ciggies on the album sleeve and communing with the music, whereas us lot? We just had it on in the background and stuck photos of popstars in scrapbooks.

Are the current generation of parents any different? Kids today don't listen to music like Justin Jespen. It's not like them and The Spice Girls, where you had to really pay attention to understand the message.

So, less than one-in-five tweens listening to music? We could try asking them directly. But we'll have to wait until they've finished making their Harlem Shake video.